Directed by Tim Story (Fantastic Four, Ride Along), Tom & Jerry features the titular duo terrorizing one another inside the walls of a posh New York City hotel. The human cast bearing witness to the chaos, as part of this hybrid animation adventure (a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit?), includes Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Rob Delaney, Ken Jeong, and SNL’s Colin Jost. Throw in some tracks from A Tribe Called Quest, Eric B. & Rakim, and other hip hop greats, and Tom & Jerry is ready to take Manhattan by storm when it premieres in both theaters and on HBO Max.
IGN spoke to Tim Story about working with legacy cartoon characters, bringing these famous frenemies into the world of mixed live-action, and how Roger Rabbit provided the perfect template for humor, drama, and action for a world where humans and animated characters co-exist in fantastical harmony.
“[Who Framed Roger Rabbit?] was the main one that I went back and checked out,” Story explained. “I must admit, in the world we were trying to create, which many hybrids haven’t done recently, which is to try to recreate the 2D animation with ‘the human world’ or ‘the real world,’ and that’s exactly what we were trying to do. We wanted to be sure that we always kept these two existences, as you might say, separate and let them have their own set of rules. So that was the main thing.”
“And then the other thing I went to was the original shorts,” he added. “I went back and watched most, if not all, of the original Hanna-Barbera shorts and that’s kind of where I left it. I think pulling from the Roger Rabbit of it all was just kind of right on point, for what I needed.”
Tom & Jerry isn’t the first time Story has adapted famous characters for the screen, having helmed the two Fantastic Four movies in 2005 and 2007, but getting the chance to usher in a Tom and Jerry movie was a dream come true for him. “It gave me everything that I love,” he said. “You’re able to do comedy and then you’re able to take two characters that I literally grew up watching and take those characters and bring them into this world. It allowed me to do physical comedy. It allowed me to do a little bit of action. I could take some winks at things like Batman. I just had a ball doing it. Even Silence of the Lambs is in there.”
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Getting the world of this movie just right, however, where humans collide with the cartoon animals (in a reality where all animals are animated), involved some tinkering and experimenting though. “I really felt early on that this world could be a little silly but still grounded,” Story stated. “When I find those combinations in films, it’s truly heartwarming to me.”
“You have to kind of try some stuff,” he continued. “There were things we tried that we found were a little too much. There were things we tried where we felt like we were being a little too realistic and we needed to embrace the zaniness of cartoon animals and cartoon characters. But luckily I had an amazing cast who understood what we were making and understood how to take it to a level of fun without losing the simpler reality. I have to give that to my partners out there that helped me make the movie. We were just constantly trying.”
“This is kind of the world of comedy to a certain degree, and family films, where you just have to kind of figure out as you go along. You have a lot of theories. There were a lot of things that we thought might try or thought that might work. And then there’s other things that we thought ‘no, that’s too crazy’ but then you found ‘oh wow, it actually worked out perfect.’ So it’s just kind of a little bit of trial and error. But being in this space many times before, there’s a comfort I find with it.”
Tom & Jerry hits select theaters on February 26, with a one-month simultaneous streaming release on HBO Max.
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